Gubernatorial hopeful Mike DeWine was the headline speaker Monday at the Highland County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
DeWine, who is running at the top of a ticket featuring Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted as the candidate for lieutenant governor, is seeking the party nomination in the Republican primary.
DeWine, who was accompanied by his wife, Fran, was expected to stress his work as state attorney general to battle the opioid crisis and discuss other plans he would implement if elected.
Also present were Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin and Clinton County businesswoman Beth Ellis, who are both seeking the GOP nod for state representative from the 91st District, the post currently held by Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who is term limited.
Kay Ayres, former longtime chairperson of the Highland County Republican Party, was to be named the Republican of the Year in honor of her contributions to the party, including at the local, state and national levels.
In a 2016 interview with The Times-Gazette as she handed over the reins to new chair Paulette Donley, Ayres said she wasn’t exactly sure how long she had served as chair. She said that Bill Fawley, the county auditor, insisted she has been in that role since sometime in the 1970s. But Ayres has served more than 50 years as a member of the Republican central and executive committee.
A big crowd filled the gymnasium of the First United Methodist Church for a dinner catered by Shoelaces Catering. Officeholders, candidates and party faithful were welcomed by Wilkin, as well as master of ceremonies Chad McConnaughey, the county recorder, whose son, William, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Party stalwart Jim Faust led the singing of the National Anthem, as well as offering the invocation.
The program included county Auditor Bill Fawley introducing DeWine, with the introduction of current officeholders handled by Lynn Stevens, co-chair of the county GOP. Shawn Priest, president of the Highland County Republican Women’s Club, was scheduled to introduce city officeholders in attendance.
Donley was set to introduce out-of-town guests, while county Engineer Dean Otworth and Republican Club President Chuck Emery were scheduled to conduct a 50-50 drawing.
Clerk of Courts Ike Hodson was offering the benediction and leading the singing of “God Bless America,” according to the program.